Love keeps us warm when the roof leaks |

Love keeps us warm when the roof leaks

Derek Franz
Open Space
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Exactly a year ago, I was in the middle of a life experiment. I was living in a run-down RV up in the Flat Tops. The roof leaked and mice infiltrated every cranny of the vehicle. Wasps liked nesting under the hood and the engine was prone to vapor lock, which wasn’t too big a deal because I wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I look back on those two months, now, and wonder if so much has changed.

The other day I took a drive and a long hike in the Flat Tops with a buddy I haven’t seen in a while. Hiking through tall grass in a meadow fringed with aspen, we fantasized about a simple life there, living in a cabin. I remembered the simple life is never so simple except that it’s simply a matter of survival. Survival isn’t so clear-cut these days. Instead of hunting and harvesting crops for food, and building cabins for shelter, it’s about generating income: Take a little money and somehow turn it into more money than you had to begin with. I’m not so good at that. Perhaps I’m not ruthless enough to think in terms of business. Andy and I hiked into the Flat Tops searching for good rock climbing. What was originally thought to be a simple walk turned into an epic bushwhack. We navigated down steep, wet ravines, losing about three times as much elevation as anticipated. I had to take my boots off and let my feet dry when we got to a meadow on the valley floor. Our destination was to explore the opposite rim, though. So we pushed on because we’d already put in so much work to get that far. We spooked a few elk in different places. Smartly, they were hiding far away from the roads where hunters on four wheelers waited for easy kills. It felt like we had our own personal paradise, and it was a good escape from treading water in the rat race. At last we came to the base of the limestone on the other side. The clouds cleared and sun dried my feet once more as we looked over the land. That’s when I realized things haven’t changed so much in my life, and that’s especially true for the best things.

“You know,” I said to Andy, “when I was in third grade, my buddy and I would spend our weekends hiking around the hills behind our houses, searching for cliffs just so we could look over the side.” I’m still hiking around with buddies, searching for the next grand view, the next thrill. I suppose that’s why I’m glad so many elements in my life have remained constant. My friends and family make all the difference in my outlook. It seems the elements in my life that do change are usually for the better. As the years pass, I meet more people and develop more relationships that enrich my life. Basically, I have more hiking buddies than ever.

There is no end-all answer to find unblemished happiness, though it’s natural to yearn for it. I certainly do. When I moved into the RV, I imagined freedom. I didn’t have to pay a utility bill but I had to fix the roof even when I had a cast on my broken foot. When I moved out of the RV, I felt relief. Yet I find myself longing for the nights I listened to an owl under the stars before going to bed surrounded by trees and wildness. At the same time, on the cold, rainy evenings, I relish the companionship of my girlfriend and a hot meal more than ever.

To a person who fails to reach out and cultivate relationships, existence might very well seem pointless. I doubt that is the case for people who value the ones they love. It’s those relationships that define our lives and aid us in time of need. I’ve been homeless. I’ve been in debt. Yet somehow the love I invest always seems to pay off tenfold. And I still have time to wander in the woods. Maybe I’m better at business than I thought. Anyway, the life experiment continues.

Derek Franz still lives under a leaky roof in his apartment. He can be reached at

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